Thursday 14 March 2013

Project Reading In Bed

I've seen a few posts and news articles recently that have discussed reading before bed, the importance of an evening routine, and the negative effects of screen time on sleep.  Being prone to depression, getting plenty of sleep and creating a good routine is really important for keeping things on an even keel, and getting into BAD sleeping habits can have an immediate effect on my mood.  A few weeks ago I had a major wobble which was exacerbated by night after night of restless sleep, so it's definitely been boosted back up my priority list of late.  After a fair amount of reading around (ironically) on the internet, I thought it might be time to finally get my butt in gear and give all this advice a whirl! 

I'd already had vague ideas floating around my head on this subject, but it was Jenn's Sunday update post over at Booksessed last week that first started to solidify my resolve.  She wrote:
"I've decided that I sleep better and have more interesting dreams when I make a point to read before bed.  So for the past couple weeks I have been going to my room between 8-9pm and reading until I get tired which is about 11pm.  I get so much reading done, it's amazing.  I don't know if I'll stick with this but it makes me feel better.  My reading is more focused which I love."
"What a marvellous idea!" thunk I, and promptly forgot about it for a few days.  Then Mum mentioned reading an interesting article on the BBC website about poor sleep being linked to heart failure, which then led me down the internet rabbit hole (again) into a whole labyrinth of articles about the link between bedtime screen use and melatonin suppression (when it gets dark our melatonin level rises, making us sleepy - more blue screen light means less melatonin), the importance of a healthy bedtime routine, and the rather fascinating myth of the 8-hour sleep, which links back to various historical sources and definitely provided me with food for thought!  Oh, and I found a sleep profiler, which I OBVIOUSLY couldn't resist.  I got 65%, which in my end report roughly translated as "You know what you should be doing, so why ain't you doing it?  Fool."

Domino got 100% on her sleep profiler.

I found all this very interesting and more than a little thought-provoking.  When I was a child, when a computer was that bulky thing in the corner of the living room that took forever to whirr up but was occasionally good for homework, reading before bed was a matter of course.  Naturally, I had nights where I was more awake and would sneak out of bed and sit under my nightlight to write my diary or carry on reading - but more often than not I would read for an hour or so and then, when it was time to turn the light off, I drifted off content and had a good night's sleep.

It's all well and good to talk about 'the good old days' and hark back to childhood with rose-tinted glasses firmly in place, but the fact remains that without a laptop three feet away on the floor, bedtime was a much more peaceful process!  There was no getting swept up article-hopping at 10 o'clock at night.  No jumping from YouTube video to YouTube video until I suddenly realised it was nearly midnight.  No sly thoughts of 'Well, I'll just write a bit more of a blog post and maybe check Twitter one more time.'  No suddenly realising I had grocery shopping to do or library books to renew and popping online in my PJs.  No idly clicking onto TV Catchup even though I knew I had to be up early the next morning.  There was a clear division between screen time and winding down for bed, and BOTH were pleasurable experiences.

So, maybe I should give this a try!  Follow in Jenn's footsteps - and those of my miniature self - and make an effort to get back to a calmer, more organized, book-fuelled pre-sleep routine rather than getting caught up on the internet and suddenly realising that I'm still fully dressed and my stuff for work isn't ready and that I should have been in bed hours ago.  It's certainly not going to hurt, and it could do wonders for both my quality of sleep AND my reading focus. 

The plan is to make a concerted effort to have the laptop or TV turned off by about 9pm every night, switch the big overhead light off in favour of the bedside lamp at the end of the bed, and READ until I get that 'time to doze off' feeling.  Sure, there's sometimes good stuff on telly at that time, but most of what I watch is on the BBC or Channel 4, both of which have decent catch-up services anyway.  Perfect for watching over breakfast or dinner, or on days off!  I'm sure I won't stick with it EVERY night - there'll be DVD evenings and nights where I get swept up doing something, undoubtedly - but I think it'll be a good step in a healthier direction!

A sleepy little Millie purr-ito!

Do you read in bed?  Do you have a particular routine, or does it chop and change from day to day?

Friday 8 March 2013

REVIEW: Snuff, by Chuck Palahniuk (3*)

(Vintage, 2009)

This is a novel about a record-breaking gang-bang featuring one legendary porn queen and six hundred obliging men.  Except... it's not.  Because Palahniuk's never as simple as that.  Told from alternating and often conflicting viewpoints - Numbers 72 (a young man), 137 (a shamed TV star) and 600 (a porn veteran), and the 'talent wrangler', Sheila - this is actually a novel about the seediness of the adult entertainment industry, the vacuity of Hollywood and the deceptive nature of screen beauty.  At the opening of the book, everyone looks good and has a reputation to uphold; by the end their secrets have been revealed and the layers of makeup and ego and personal history have been peeled away to reveal something uglier, smaller and deeply sad.  It didn't rock my world like Rant, which I still occasionally find myself mulling over nearly a year on - but if you're not easily offended it was a relatively quick read and still pulled me on at breakneck pace towards the inevitable bizarre finale...

Favourite part:  Palahniuk's trademark devotion to throwing in loads of pithy little facts about his subject, the more offbeat the better - I stopped every few pages to Google something, only to find it was actually true and not just part of his fiction.  Some of my favourite examples from this particular novel:
  • During the making of Singin' in the Rain, Gene Kelly had to film the title song for several days in a row while running a temperature of 103° and dancing in 'rain' made by mixing water with milk.
  • Marilyn Monroe used to cut down the heel of one of her shoes to make one leg shorter than the other, giving her a real wiggle when she walked.
  • Tallulah Bankhead used to grind eggshells into a glass of water and drink down the mixture, scratching her throat and giving her a deeper, more sultry voice.
  • During the Cold War, American spies had cyanide cast into their glasses.  If they were caught, they were meant to casually chew the curved earpieces, killing them almost immediately.
  • Roy Fitzgerald was a giggly, clumsy actor with a high-pitched voice.  He was deliberately exposed to someone with strep throat, then advised to exert his vocal chords until they were damaged enough that when he got better, his voice was lower.  Then he changed his name to Rock Hudson.

If nothing else, this novel has been an excellent source of genuinely interesting trivia to throw at people over the last few days!  :)

Source:  I borrowed this book from Chesterfield Library.